April 7, 2010

Garbanzo Bean Burritos

 A quick and easy meal...

This dish is the bomb. It's simple to make and it's so delicious and definitely healthy. It requires minimal preparation: All you have to do is open and drain two cans of garbanzo beans, dice up an onion, chop fresh cilantro leaves, measure out some spices, and you're all set. In 10-15 more minutes, you'll be at the table to eat.

You'll saute up the onions and garlic till they're quite soft. Next, you'll stir in spices that mimic the savory factor of typical meat burritos or tacos, but all without the meat (and without the refried beans). Up the ante by adding extra chili powder if you're into the hot aspect of burritos. Finally, you'll stir in the garbanzo beans. As they cook, they soften significantly but don't lose their shape. You'll finish up with some fresh cilantro, which adds a nice color and a suggestion of the herb's signature flavor.

Serve up a few spoonfuls of the mixture on a tortilla, add a dollop of plain yogurt, and enjoy!

Tortillas: You can use whole grain tortillas, which generally have a little more fiber and protein than regular four tortillas. 

Toppings: You could choose to make it like your usual burrito by adding toppings like diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, or salsa. However, the only topping this meal requires (it truly takes the garbanzo burrito's flavor to the superlative degree) is plain yogurt or greek yogurt. Plain yogurt has significantly less of everything-that's-bad-for-you-in-large-doses that sour cream has significantly more of, and it tastes nearly the same as sour cream. These yogurts (normal plain and Greek plain) are similar in flavor and nutritional content, but the Greek plain yogurt is thicker, has more protein, and costs significantly more than plain ole yogurt.

As far as nutrition goes, the main things to watch when making this dish is the sodium content and the oil content. Just use about 1 tablespoon of olive oil--enough to coat the bottom of the skillet somewhat so that you can saute the onions and garlic. That oil will also lightly coat the garbanzo beans, helping them cook and helping the spices stick. You need the oil, but you don't need much. Too often, people cook with way too much oil--it's just unnecessary to use so much, and using less is such an easy way to cut back on fat.

On the topic of SALT: Another aspect of cooking that baffles me is when salt is tossed about as if it's an ingredient that is not only necessary but also necessary in unguarded amounts. Salt is certainly an important mineral. I am convinced that it helps draw out flavors in foods, and it is quite often a key seasoning. But if you wish to help lower your risk for things like hypertension, and even heartburn, be conscious of how much salt you add, and cut back on it whenever possible.

Since you're cooking a meal yourself, you're already avoiding an immense amount of the sodium that is in those processed (convenient) foods that you could have bought, but didn't. But that doesn't now mean you can shovel on the salt and expect the sodium content to still be extraordinarily low--salt doesn't become oddly healthy just because it's coming from your own kitchen. I suggest leaving much of the seasoning-by-salt to the end, when you have the result of your hard work on your plate. Taste it, and then gently season it to your taste....being sure to leave the taste of the other ingredients in the food unmasked by saltiness.

I also like to use seasonings and spices other than salt when I'm tempted to add more salt. Sometimes a finished dish is just lacking a little....something, and adding a sprinkle of onion powder or some freshly-ground black pepper (my favorite) is all it needs. Depending on the type of food you're cooking, sometimes you can substitute various spices for some of the salt that the recipe suggests you use. I am a big fan of spices. I just counted 40 different spices in my cupboard, including salt and pepper and various dried herbs. Perhaps that's a little extreme, but I do use them all, and they're all common. In another post, I'll discuss how I choose which spices to use in different recipes.

Conclusion on this discourse about salt: You can add it, but you can't easily take it out.  And your food shouldn't taste like salt. 

Back to nutrition: Garbanzo beans (a.k.a. chickpeas) are high in protein and dietary fiber, and they're low in fat. Those are great qualities to have! Yay! Eat more garbanzos!
Back to this recipe: I heard tell of garbanzo bean burritos several weeks ago through The Splendid Table's newsletter. My variation is simpler. It's one that's easy to make in a pinch--as long as you keep onions and a couple cans of garbanzo beans in the pantry and minced garlic, tortillas, and some cilantro in the fridge. Those are common-enough items.
No Cilantro? You don't have to use fresh cilantro leaves. Good substitutes include chopped baby spinach or dried or fresh parsley, chives, basil, or oregano. For the more pungent of those herbs, you may need to decrease the amount you use so that it doesn't overwhelm the other flavors of the food. If you use dried herbs, you'll need to use less than you would if it were fresh (e.g. 1 teaspoon dry parsley or 1 tablespoon fresh parsley). You could even leave out the green leafy addition completely--it adds a nice flavor, but the keys to this meal are the beans and spices (and yogurt).

Sides ideas: Salad (vegetable or fruit, or a mix) or rice. But with extra toppings, the burritos can be the entire meal.

Garbanzo Bean Burritos
Estimated time: 20 - 25 minutes
Serves: 4 - 6 (using 6 or 8-inch tortillas)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2  15-16 ounce cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and gently rinsed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped small (a little less than two cups when chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (plus extra if you like)
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder (extra if you like it hot)
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves (chopped small, making 1/4-1/2 cup when chopped)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (use less if you use a fine-grain salt instead)
  • Freshly-ground black pepper
  • Whole grain tortillas
  • Plain yogurt

1. Heat olive oil on medium heat in 12-inch skillet (a straight-sided one is helpful).
2. Combine chopped onion and minced garlic and saute in pan until quite tender, 5 to 7 minutes.
3. Thoroughly stir in spices (not cilantro yet).
4. Add drained garbanzo beans and cook about 5 minutes, stirring often.
5. Sprinkle in coarse salt and freshly-ground black pepper.
6. Stir in chopped fresh cilantro leaves and cook 1 more minute, then remove from heat.
7. Serve on whole grain tortillas with plain yogurt.



CRS said...

I can't wait to try this one. Now to just get my kids to eat it. We'll see.

kristin noel said...

Making this for dinner tonight. I'll let you know how it goes!

Brian said...

I REALLY like these. :-)

kristin noel said...

I finally made them! They were so yummy! I mean this is a total winner. Definitely need to keep this in mind for LeTU gatherings and vacations. Quick, easy, full of protein, inexpensive, and healthy... can't get better than that! You're awesome!

abigail said...

Kristin - Thanks for the feedback! I'm glad to hear they worked out so well for you! Yes, they're a great thing to make up quick--and since it's inexpensive, it would be great for large-ish groups. Great idea!

sarahjo said...

Matt and I are ADDICTED to the splendid table - her podcasts are frequently played on our lazy sunday afternoons :)

abigail said...

Neato! Where do you get them? iTunes? There used to be a version called "How to Eat Supper," and it was about 15 minutes long and had neat tips....I can't find it anymore.

sarah jo said...

somehow he downloaded them all - I know it's not itunes, because that's not supported by our ubuntu system. I know that Lynn published a cook-book called "How to Eat Supper" - perhaps they took away the 15 min. segments due to the book.

On to the real comment. Matt and I made these and they were indeed Yummy! Matt said they were a little bland - but that's because I'm afraid of hot spices and left out several of them :)! Guess I learned my lesson - the remaining flavor was still tasty. We put vanilla yogurt on top and it was an amazing addition!

abigail said...

Super! Glad they turned out tasty. :)
Don't worry--I am not a fan of hot foods, so if I post a recipe that makes one's nose run because of the spices, I'll be sure to mention it. :)
These burritos turn out spicy, but not with much "heat" from the spices. If that makes sense. :)